Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sticking to Chang

It seems I've been away from the UK for longer than I imagined as I can only recognise around half of the following list from ShortList:


1. HOPHEAD BY DARK STAR (3.8%)

“The Grateful Dead were always an acquired taste and their signature tune, Dark Star — a 25-minute jazz-rock wig-out — is just that,” says Charlie McVeigh. “It’s appropriate, then, that when Dead-Head Rob Jones began brewing a mysterious dark ale, he named it after that song. Later, branching out on his own in the cellar of The Evening Star in Brighton in 1994, Dark Star became the name of the nascent brewery, which still brews its eponymous award-winning beer. My favourite is Hophead, a fuller-bodied beer with notes of elderflower.”

2. BADGER GOLDEN CHAMPION BY HALL & WOODHOUSE (5%)

“This is the back-yard grill king,” says Pete Brown. “Brewed with a hint of elderflower, Golden Champion provides a delicate perfume just above your palate. It tastes of summer evenings over the barbecue and has the body to stand up beautifully to chargrilled meat.”

3. BUDVAR YEAST (5%)

“Brits have grown blasé about Budvar,” says McVeigh. “We forget that this ancient brewery was purchased by the Czech government to preserve its unique brewing heritage and, as a result, is impervious to market pressure to ‘dumb down’. Many people also don’t realise that Budvar is lagered (cold-conditioned to smooth the taste) for 90 days, which is unusual. The unpasteurised, unfiltered Budvar Yeast is a class act — though it only has a shelf-life of 28 days.”

4. BERNARD UNFILTERED BY BERNARD (5.1%)

“I occasionally wish that some people were more open-minded than just asking for a ‘pint of lager’, but they are forgiven if they go for this unpasteurised lager, which is full of flavour,” says Tony Lennon. “This is our bestseller when we can get our hands on it. Bernard also brews a dark lager, pilsner and a light beer, all of which are great brews.”

5. LONDON PALE ALE BY MEANTIME (4.3%)

“One of my favourite beer stories is the origin of India pale ale,” says McVeigh. “This hoppy brew was originally created in the 19th century to water British troops in India. Our mild, pro-biotic ales couldn’t survive the weeks at sea, so brewers upped the hop content, creating a robust beer that survived the voyage. Brewing hero Alastair Hook has done his homework and this is as good as any execution of the style. Perfect with a hot curry.”

6. TEXAS RANGER BARREL AGED BY MIKKELLER (6.6%)

“Mikkeller is brewed by an eccentric and mysterious Danish guy who travels from brewery to brewery in Denmark, the UK and US ‘contract brewing’,” says Lennon. “He’s a specialist in dark, hoppy beers, such as this tasty porter which features the smoky heat of chipotle peppers rounded by the vanilla and oak notes of bourbon barrels.”

7. OLA DUBH 40 BY HARVIESTOUN (8%)

"Scottish brewery Harviestoun has pioneered the renaissance of craft brewing north of the border,” says McVeigh. “This fortified, inky brew is an extreme example of the brewer’s art. Ola Dubh (‘black oil’) starts life as Old Engine Oil: a dry 6% stout. Seeking a more complex drink, Harviestoun decants the stout into a Highland Park 40-year-old whisky barrel. “It eventually emerges as Ola Dubh 40, a decadent, port-like beer.”

8. CAMDEN PALE ALE BY CAMDEN TOWN BREWERY (4.5%)

“This beer from one of London’s newest and most exciting breweries is available in both cask and keg format,” says Brown. “The cask is good, but the perfectly judged carbonation in the keg lifts out the fruity aromas. It’s worth coming to London for, wherever you live.”

9. HOOKY DARK BY HOOK NORTON (3.2%)

“Situated in the village of Hook in Oxfordshire, this Victorian brewery has been creating contemporary versions of old favourites, with Hooky Dark leading the way,” says Jon Howard. “Having recently won bronze at the Brewing Industry International Awards, this has a complex malt and hop aroma, and a long, hoppy finish, unusual for a mild.”

10. CROP CIRCLE BY HOP BACK (4.2%)

“A groundbreaking brewery that started life in the cellar of The Wyndham Arms in Salisbury,” says Howard. “Crop Circle embodies the sun-drenched season with its slight citrus taste. Available in bottles as well as draught, its golden appearance and subtle flavours make it ideal for evenings in the beer garden.”

11. ORGANIC BEST BITTER BY ST PETER’S (4.1%)

“There’s more to this than meets the eye,” says Pierpaolo Petrassi. “The chariot barley is Soil Association accredited and organically grown, and the water comes from St Peter’s own source beneath the brewery. The result is a refreshing and full-bodied bitter that’s ideal for picnics.”

12. OLD RUBY ALE 1905 BY DUCHY ORIGINALS (5%)

“Brewed at the Wychwood Brewery in Witney, Oxfordshire, this deliciously robust blend is produced using barley from selected organic farms, including an English variety first used in 1905 called Plumage Archer,” says Petrassi. “It’s rich-tasting while maintaining elegance and balance.”

13. INDIA PALE ALE BY GOOSE ISLAND (5.9%)

“Replicating an English-style IPA is quite a mean feat when you’re based in Illinois, but it’s precisely what Goose Island has done,” says Howard. “If the aroma of bitter oranges and spicy hops doesn’t win you over, the range of fruit and bitter edge of the hops on the palate will. You’ll fail to find worthy superlatives for it on a balmy summer evening.”

14. KIPLING BY THORNBRIDGE BREWERY (5.2%)

“Best known for Jaipur, which has won more beer festival awards than any other ale since its 2005 launch, Thornbridge is fast becoming the classiest brewer in Britain,” says Brown. “Kipling is Jaipur’s younger brother, and is a tropical fruit salad with a tart finish. It combines the refreshment of lager with an ale’s body.”

15. ABBOT ALE BY GREENE KING (5%)

“Smooth, fruity and refreshing, with a depth of flavour that makes it a perfect match for full-flavoured foods,” says Petrassi. “The Greene King brewery is situated next to the historic ruins of the Bury St Edmunds’ Great Abbey and still draws water from the chalk wells used in brewing as far back as 1086. Crystal malts give Abbot its rich malty taste while First Gold, Fuggles and Challenger hops add a tangy, bitter dimension to the biscuity finish.”

16. MANCHESTER BITTER BY MARBLE (4.2%)

“A superb British bitter from a brewery highly regarded for its innovative beers,” says Howard. “For the best experience, nip into The Marble Arch in Manchester, where the brewery is housed. You’ll be taken aback by its strong, fruity, hop aromas, faultless golden colour and finely balanced bitterness on the palate and in the finish. Who said bitter was boring?”

17. ARTISAN GOLD BY BOWLAND BREWERY (5.7%)

“A golden ale matured and finished using the traditional champagne-making method, resulting in a drink that combines the sparkle of an over-excited debutante with the poise and elegance of a true aristocrat,” says Brown. “Worth every penny of the £15.99 price tag for a 750ml cork and foil-wrapped champagne bottle.”

18. HEFEWEIZEN BY WEST (5.2%)

“West is a microbrewery based in Glasgow, and is a lovely place to visit if you’re up in Scotland,” says Lennon. “We’ve had its Hefeweizen keg on recently at The Euston Tap and it’s something special — a light, cloudy, fluffy, summery wheat beer and a SIBA (Society of Independent Brewers’ Association) award-winner.”

19. DOPPELMALZ BY SCHREMSER (4.6%)

“The picturesque Schrems brewery in the Austrian Waldviertel, just south of the Czech border, was founded in 1380, and is characterised by an obsessive regard for quality and tradition,” says McVeigh. “All malt and hops used are grown locally. Doppelmalz is a ‘double-malted’ beer with a creamy, fruity brew.”

20. PUNK IPA BY BREWDOG (5.6%)

“BrewDog is an Aberdeen-based brewery responsible for some of the most daring beers currently available,” says Lennon. “This lightish India pale ale is proving extremely popular, and at 5.6% is one of the more sessionable IPAs out there. For me, it’s currently the best experimental brewery, and it’s well worth seeking out any of its beers.”

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